BILLIE HOLIDAY - courtesy flickr

R.I.P. BARBARA MORRISON – Just a few weeks ago I recommended one of her performances and wondered to myself if she was back at Pip’s, her pre-COVID funky, comfy local venue home. You could see her for free there, or you could pay $40-60 cover at some fancy nightclub, probably more in Europe and Asia, and always feel you got more than you paid for. She was an easy master of genres, gliding from blues and jazz into soul and R&B. She will be missed. And another  reminder that you should get out and hear these local treasures while you still can.

LEVON AND MAVIS: I’ve mostly moved away from reviewing albums, but never say never, right? This is just a notice, of an album that could well be an instant classic. Gospel-Civil Rights living legend Mavis Staples, now in her 80s and lacking nothing, and apparently not slowing down, had a close relationship with The Band’s incomparable drummer-vocalist Levon Helm (also a pretty fair actor: “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “The Right Stuff”), who died in 2012 after a long battle with throat cancer. Prior to that, he had put his band together with Mavis’s and the album, “Carry Me Home” (May 20), is the result. Here’s a sample song, “You Got To Move,” that showcases the quiet but electric chemistry of these two. https://mavisandlevon.ffm.to/carrymehome 

Local note: no one could fill Levon’s shoes, but these days Mavis’s choice for a drummer is none other than our own STEVE MUGALIAN. I’m not sure there is any higher praise.

LOUDON WAINWRIGHT III – I’ll try to write a little more about his standout two shows at MCCABE’S  Monday and Tuesday, but I will say this: I was right last week in my column, to suggest everyone go to both shows, because he is such a rare, wonderful live performer and because, as I went out on a limb to predict, he did do two pretty different shows. Monday night did feature a quick duet with the equally quirky and wonderful VAN DYKE PARKS on piano. But Tuesday night’s show had at least 10 different songs from Monday’s, one he claimed to have written in the green room just before coming out. A lot more way back stuff. For his quirkiness and brilliant wordsmithing, sometimes you forget how amazing his voice is, and how really good his guitar work is. This is LA, it’s McCabe’s where so much magic happens. Don’t miss these opportunities, please. 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED:

EM the MASTER  –Every Tuesday night, witness the multi-talented Em, a force of nature. I’ve been giving EM’s show a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for months now and still do. She sings, dances, has dancers. She crawls across the floor like a reptile, gripping the mic and never missing a beat. She doesn’t play the piano, she attacks it. Uses her voice as an instrument in creative ways. Her energy is seemingly limitless. Writes terrific songs perfect for her act. More talent than anyone has a right to. Every Tues 9:30 p.m., Harvelle’s, Santa Monica, $10.

LA PHIL with ZUBIN MEHTA, MOZART’S GREAT MASS – Not being lazy or presumptive, but I think this one speaks for itself. If you have never witnessed “The Great Mass” live, you are in for a memorable treat. It was Mozaet’s last symphony, left unfinished. I guess he was being called to present it on a higher plane. In Zubin Mehta’s hands, with his old orchestra, and the angelic voices of the LA Master Chorale, it should be beatific. Next Thurs 8 p.m., Walt Disney Concert Hall, DTLA, $71-229 

RECOMMENDED:

TONIGHT! – “Bessie, Billie, & Nina – Pioneering Women in Jazz” – I don’t have any personal experience with this show, but it sounds worthwhile. Bessie, Billie and Nina were incredible vocalists who changed the course of music, giants of music and of the fight, still being waged, for racial and gender equality. With three singers backed by an all-female jazz band, this seems like a good bet.  Thurs 8 p.m., Pepperdine, Malibu, $10–45.

TONIGHT! – LA PHIL with David Robertson conducting MAHLER’S 7TH –  Much admired conductor David Robertson, born and raised in Malibu, former music director of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and the St. Louis Symphony, will share his insights into the multi-faceted world of Mahler’s Seventh Symphony, sometimes called “The Song of the Night” because two of the five movements are titled “Nachtmusik.” The work is known for Mahler’s use of unusual scoring, including guitar, mandolin, tenor horn, even an early example of Bartók’s “snap pizzicato.” The symphonic journey concludes with a roaring rollercoaster ride of a finale. Who needs Magic Mountain? Tonight Thurs, Sat 8 p.m., Sun 2 p.m., Walt Disney Concert Hall, LA, $20-214.    

LA OPERA presents BACH’S ST. MATTHEW PASSION – Well… that was certainly different. No costumed actor-singers on stage, the talented soloists were barely visible in the orchestra pit. Then who told the story on stage? About 40 white-clad dancers of the Hamburg Ballet, and a large chorus singing in the shadows. It’s not pretty ballet, not a pretty story, of the passion and crucifixion of Jesus, with beating and other tortures well represented, up to the death and burial. It’s a story many of us know in detail, so I found myself fighting the artistic license a bit. The choreography was amazing, as was the dancing. But I found myself losing track sometimes of the well-played music, because of all the flowing white chaos on the stage. Who knew I was a stodgy traditionalist?  Sat, Thurs 7:30 p.m., Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, LA,  Sat 7:30 p.m., Sun 2 p.m., Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, DTLA, $23-292.

PACIFIC OPERA PROJECT presents TCHAIKOVSKY’S “IOLANTA” – Hooray! The little opera company that could, that started out in SM at Miles Playhouse and has grown so much in every way, is now back, in a nice theater in Little Tokyo (that’s not on a front lawn, but that was necessary, and okay), with “Iolanta,” a different kind of fairytale. (POP loves “different.”) Cristina Jones, a.k.a. “The Blind Soprano,” stars in the opera’s title role about a princess who is unaware that she is blind. Their first opera in Russian. With a 32-piece orchestra. Founder and creative whirlwind Josh Shaw is directing, so, I’m in. Sat 7:30 p.m., Sun 3 p.m, Aratani Theatre, Little Tokyo, $12-60.

TOLEDO DIAMOND — Have you gone to catch his unique show yet, every Sunday night at Harvelle’s, here in SM? I’ve been recommending him for… decades. Choreographer to the biggest stars, smoky-voiced hep cat, creator of a unique floor show, with his dames, circus hoops, and a band that is truly a knockout. Trust me. You’ve never seen anything like Toledo. You will not forget this show and likely you will be back, friends in tow. Sun 9:30 p.m., Harvelle’s, Santa Monica, $12.       

COMING ATTRACTIONS:  JAVIER CAMARENA, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 4/2; LA PHIL with ZUBIN MEHTA, MOZART’S GREAT MASS, Walt Disney Concert Hall, 4/1, 2, 3; SILKROAD ENSEMBLE’S “Home Within,”, The Saroya, 4/2; LANG LANG plays BACH’s “Goldberg Variations,” Walt Disney Concert Hall, 4/3; ALVIN AILEY AMERICAN DANCE THEATER, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 4/6, 7; MEHTA Conducts BRUCKNER, BERG, Walt Disney Concert Hall, 4/7, 8, 10; BLASTERS,  Bourbon Room, 4/9; SOUNDS OF LA: “AUKAHI” (Flowing Harmony) with Kumu Hula Kealiʻi Ceballos, Daniel Ho, and Ohana, Getty, 4/9, 10; “YEMANDJA” starring ANGELIQUE KIDJO, Broad Stage; 4/15; ROGER McGUINN, Smothers Theatre, 4/25.

Charles Andrews has listened to a lot of music of all kinds, including more than 3,000 live shows. He has lived in Santa Monica for 36 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com